Posts Tagged: The Guardian

Ways of Speaking

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In his seminal book Ways of Seeing, critic and novelist John Berger deconstructed the framework of presuppositions through which we view visual images. Over at the Guardian, he reminds us that language is also a process, one in which layers of meaning combine with a writer’s own relationship to words:

This practice reminds us that a language cannot be reduced to a dictionary or stock of words and phrases.

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Journalism vs. Silicon Valley

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What is really at the heart of the debate over The New Republic?

The tension between an engineering culture and an editorial culture is …damaging and oversimplified … but definitely real. At the recent Newsgeist conference – a coming-together of technologists, educators, journalists and executives – one of the most animated sessions was called “Product versus Editorial” and, if there had been an option for us to express ourselves with primal screaming, it would have shattered the windows, such was the frustration of those who have to work with both.

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Genealogy of Hobbits and Hiawatha

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Through his research for an article for the journal Tolkien Studies, John Garth believes he has discovered a surprising source text for several episodes from Middle Earth: Longfellow’s trochaic epic, “The Song of Hiawatha.” The dragon Smaug has long been associated with the hoard-dragons of ancient Icelandic sagas; Garth suggests that the particular manner of his death—felled by the hero’s Hail Mary arrow—points back to Hiawatha’s battle with Megissogwon, a spirit of wealth.

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A Girl’s Guide to Activism

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A seven-year-old in California scored a big win for the little guy (or, in this case, the little girl) by convincing Abdo Publishing to stop marketing their Biggest, Baddest Book of Bugs exclusively to boys. Young reader Parker Dains took umbrage with the title, and the other titles in the same series, writing:

You should change from “Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys’ into ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys and Girls’ because some girls would like to be entomologists too.

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Diversity Matters

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Daniel Handler’s (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) recent racist joke at the National Book Awards exposed an uncomfortable truth about the American publishing industry: its overwhelming whiteness. For the industry to survive, it must embrace diversity. Over at the Guardian, Carole DeSanti points out that regardless of changes in the business of publishing, what matters is the content:

…any gains in the format and pricing wars are going to be wiped out if content is less and less relevant to the way people live, who we are, and what we aspire to be.

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On the “Novelty” of Strong Women

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For the Guardian, Hannah Ellis-Peterson discusses the success of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. Since its debut this summer, the author’s first novel has received acclaim for its strong female characters. However, Burton has since expressed frustration over the perception of “strong women” in fiction as a “novelty”:

I’ve always struggled with this notion of a ‘strong female’, because all the females I know in my life are strong, and it’s a term that suggests that by default they would be weak and they are extra-special as a result.

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The Optimistic Bear

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Paddington Bear, the iconic British children’s book character, finds himself in a new film adaptation this year. The Guardian spoke with Paddington’s creator, the 88-year-old Michael Bond. With 35 million books in print in more than 40 languages, Paddington has endured for more than 50 years, something Bond attributes to the bear’s optimism:

“Paddington is eternally optimistic and always comes back for more, no matter how many times his hopes are dashed…”

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Women Read Women

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Women read books written by women and men read books written by men, reports the Guardian. A study of Goodreads data suggests that people prefer reading books written by those who share their gender. The study also reveals that men and women read roughly the same number of books; however, women read twice as many books published in 2014 as men did.

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Language Wars

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Most writers aspire to clarity in language. Politicians, of course, are the exception. Legislators are turning to language to obscure their intentions, claims Steven Poole over at the Guardian. Poole cites a trade deal between the EU and the United States that confounds the issue of tariffs known as TTIP:

One might be forgiven for concluding from this, and in general from the obfuscatory and often downright misleading bureaucratese in which TTIP’s aims are framed, that they are trying to hide something.

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The Best Standup Comedian You’ve Never Seen Perform

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For the Guardian, Joshua Ferris pays tribute to his hero, Jim Shepard, who served as a visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine when he was an MFA student. “A lot of critics dislike the professionalisation of creative writing,” Ferris writes, but “they have never had Shepard in a workshop”:

[Shepard’s] insight is humbling, deeply grained, outrageously perceptive and full of a signature humour.

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Amazon’s Book of the Year

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Celeste Ng’s novel, Everything I Never Told You, was recently named by Amazon as the book of the year. Amazon’s editorial team reviewed 480 fiction and non-fiction books before coming up with a top 10. Ng sat down with Hermione Hoby for the Guardian to talk about about writing, race, and Amazon:

“It’s hard to feel like the things Amazon was doing were not going to harm the industry,” she says.

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Writing After 40

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If the lists are to be believed, the only good new writers are under 40. It’s not just Buzzfeed, but also the New Yorker, Granta, and others who publish lists of great new—and young—authors. Joanna Walsh takes issue with this trend over at the Guardian:

Sometimes the literary bitcoin is just life: some people have more to say aged 50, than at 30; for others it’s the opposite.

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Get A Little Less Precious

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Mallory Ortberg, founder of The Toast and general source of hilarity and wit, talks to the Guardian about her just-released book Texts from Jane Eyre, creating a humorous website for intelligent women, and why you shouldn’t strive for perfection when writing online:

It helps to get a little less precious about your writing and realise “Hey, I can write something and it’s not great, and I’ll live.” People will move on, and the internet is a constant wave of content.

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Women Are More Interesting

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Nick Hornby often ends up fielding questions from fans eager to understand why he frequently writes about women, especially since he’s a man. Many of his novels feature female protagonists, and his second career as a screenwriter includes what he calls the “young girl trilogy.” It’s not a coincidence that women are the center of these stories, he explains to the Guardian:

“It seems to me quite often that the journeys of young women are more moving, because they are hemmed in more, and dramatically it’s more interesting to think about and write about people whose lives are circumscribed in some way.”

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A Democratic Way of Living

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Viv Groskop interviews author Azar Nafisi about her book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which chronicles her experience teaching controversial works in Tehran. Nafisi also discusses her motivation to write her most recent book, The Republic of Imagination, which argues that literature promotes a “democratic way of living”:

Fiction confronts a great many things that we cannot fully confront in real life.

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Smiley Sheds Light on Some Luck

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For the Guardian, Robert McCrum sits down with Jane Smiley to discuss the award-winning author’s new book, Some Luck, and the creative process.

“I grew up in a family of storytellers,” she explains, describing Some Luck. “I cannot remember a thing that anyone talked about—not politics, not movies, not history, not religion—that wasn’t filtered through a tale of Grandfather, Uncle Charlie or what Mom was doing that day.”

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Antique Doodles

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The owner of another fabulous volume, the Book of St Albans – a gentleman’s guide to heraldry, hawking and hunting that, in the 1480s, was the first colour printed book in English – did worse and with much less shame: he added a little drawing to the bottom of a page showing an enthusiastic couple having sex.

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